Methods To Your SEO Planning Madness That Win Every Time

SEO Sep 18, 2013


If you do Search Engine Optimization for other people and websites other than yours, I’m going to guess that you’ve had extensive interactions with your clients — many of whom know a lot, some very little, or nothing at all, about SEO.

You know, you have those hour long meetings, phone calls, emails, and awkward Facebook friend requests.

You explain one thing over and over again, only to get blank stares and the “so, when will I be on page 1?” questions.

It comes with the territory, I suppose.

The amount of hair you’re pulling out of your head in sheer frustration is probably not just due to Google being a fickle but dedicated lover, but possibly because your clients may be on the less-than-awesome side of things.

Your clients could potentially always be awesome, though.

At least half of that potential stems from you and what you’re like with them; setting expectations, managing the project, using a friendly tone when interacting with them.

And, of course, the other half falls on them.

The least you can do, though, is managing your SEO clients projects in a way that minimizes confusion, misunderstandings, and unrealistic expectations.

As with most jobs and businesses, it comes down to people management more than the actual work sometimes.

So, we should talk about this — how to manage your projects and clients that makes it easy, breezy, joyful, and profitable to do what you do.

Plus, if you have a method and plan to the madness, you’ll be more effective, productive, less stressed, and a happier camper — and so will your clients.

Sounds like a plan? Cool.

The 4 Phases You Should Be Aware Of And Use For Your SEO Projects

There are more ways to approach this than the number of search signals Google uses, so don’t take this as gospel or final word.

The goal here is for you to adopt ideas that fit your workflow and have you develop your own custom-made methods and planning.

Don’t get your pants all tangled up in a bunch over specific word-choices. For example, you might call “Assessment” something different, that’s totally up to you.

In my highly-esteemed opinion, you can split a project into 4 different phases. In each phase, how you handle the work and clients is what makes a difference between a Happy You or a Frustrated You.

We want happy, right?

Here are the 4 phases:

  • Assessment — Estimating the project scope, uncovering needs and problems.
  • Selling — Matching clients’ needs with your capabilities.
  • Strategy — Planning the work and deliverables.
  • Execution — Delivery of promises, baby!

Each phase have some overlap but enough unique purpose and approach to warrant a discussion.

They have their own outcomes, and generally those outcomes are universal. Any disagreements are usually over tactics and tasks, but there should be consensus on what the accomplishments are.

For these phases, I’m going to briefly outline some ways to get through them, what to keep in mind, look for, and enough fundamentals that will help you create plans and workflows.

The Assessment Phase Of A SEO Project


The Goal Of This Phase

Assess and understand the situation of the client, website, and work in question; to find out if they’re a good fit for you and if you’re a good fit for them.

What You Should Keep In Mind & Look For

  • Understand your client’s needs and problems.
  • What they’re hoping to accomplish and what the overarching business goals are.
  • Assess their current situation to see what’s feasible and possible to accomplish (depending on how you go about doing business, some type of preliminary audit can be useful here).

Fundamentals For Implementation

  • Develop a SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for the overall flow of this phase (from initial contact all the way to escalating for a sale).
  • Document the questions you need to ask every client to accurately assess needs, problems, and project scope. Get this wrong, and you’re heading straight toward a disaster of missed opportunities and possible failure to deliver on promises.

The Selling Phase Of A SEO Project


The Goal Of This Phase

To find a match between what a client wants, actually needs, and what you can offer and execute on. If you have the approach of a problem-solver and need-meeter (is that even a word? Well, it is now), you won’t have to revert to awkward sales techniques.

What You Should Keep In Mind & Look For

  • Discuss and reflect back the scope of the project accurately. There’s nothing like miscommunication to create misunderstandings and send the whole she-bang to the trash can.
  • The more clear and understandable you can make what you do, the easier it will be to reach an agreement. Connect a clear line between what you’re going to do with what their needs, problems, aspirations, and goals are (you found this out in the first phase, right?).
  • Attempt to get as many buy-ins and small “yes’” to what you’re proposing, before you go for the actual sell. The road to a big yes is littered with small agreements along the way.

Fundamentals For Implementation

  • Establish a set of criteria for the kind of clients you want to work with, that you can do good work for, and what kind of projects are a good or bad fit for what you can deliver on.
  • Understand how what you do with SEO will produce actual business results; find ways to demonstrate this if you can (case studies, testimonials, etc.)

The Strategy Phase Of A SEO Project


The Goal Of This Phase

Once a project has been sold and agreed upon, now is the time to draw up the strategy, stages, and deliverables for the project.

What You Should Keep In Mind & Look For

  • Realistic planning will minimize or even prevent delays, which will frustrate your clients and stress you out. There’s a tricky balance between timely delivery and giving yourself enough time to do a good job. Past experiences come in handy here.
  • Prioritize tasks and do things in the order they need to be done. An obvious example would be to get the keyword research done properly before you start producing content.

Fundamentals For Implementation

  • Draw upon past projects that are similar to accurately estimate time and work needed.
  • Be even more clear on what your services and products actually involve. This is where documented processes (SOPs) come in handy. There should be very little customization to be done so aim to create a plug-n-play method with key methods and tactics.

The Execution Phase Of A SEO Project


The Goal Of This Phase

Actually doing the work needed and agreed upon! Imagine that…

What You Should Keep In Mind & Look For

  • There should be clear and exact actions laid out, for any and all SEO work that will be done.
  • These actions and tasks need to be well-defined but avoid outcome-specific tasks (“get 16 PR3 links and 23 PR2 links”). Tasks are how you arrive at outcomes, not outcomes in themselves.
  • You’re already keeping tabs on what Google is up to, and what tools and tactics are working better than others (right?), so make sure you update and refresh your own set of SOPs and task lists to reflect the current state of search. Don’t rely on what was true even 1 year ago.

Fundamentals For Implementation

  • Establish a revision schedule for the SEO strategies, techniques, and tactics you use. You want to stop doing stuff that will be detrimental to your projects and always be on the lookout for new opportunities. This is how innovation happens (can you innovate in SEO? You sure can).
  • Make sure you not just clearly define tasks and actions, but know who is assigned to and accountable for what. If you work with a team (you should), then this will save you from a lot of confusion.

Now Go Forth, Be Profitable, And Multiply

As data, metric, and procedure driven as Search Engine Optimization is in execution, it’s funny how easy it is to drop the ball when it comes to managing projects and clients properly.

All of the tips above are useful for avoiding clashes of titans (you and them), but obviously, nothing can completely prevent it.

What you need to remember is this: clients will look to you for guidance. It may not be obvious to you, and they might not even be fully aware of this, but if you can take charge of a project in a way where they (your clients) feel understood, valued, and prioritized, they won’t get too obsessed with wondering why they aren’t on page 1 yet after a week or two.

Will they still care? Of course! That’s what they pay you for.

However, your communication and their expectations will match up nicely and you can spend most of your energy delivering on what you do and not fielding angry emails and phone calls.

How do you go about the various stages and phases of a project?

Have you developed SOPs and processes for most of it? 

One response
  1. Avatar
    Dave Hadden

    The very first step towards planning SEO strategies is SEO Audit. Through SEO audit, you can sort out the current SEO report of the website, competitor’s data, lacking within the website itself etc.

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